by Fr. Mark Goldasich
I recently heard about a much-anticipated event at a bookstore: A famous author was there, autographing his latest work and visiting with his many fans.
During a slight lull in the action, a rather rotund, clearly out-of-shape man lumbered to the author’s table and wheezed in a loud voice that boomed around the store: “I can’t believe I’m actually meeting you in person! I’ve read all of your books, cover to cover! Everyone should read them! You’ve been an incredible inspiration to me!”
The author immediately jumped up, went around the table and put his arms around the huge man’s shoulders. As he did so, the writer nervously scanned the area and whispered desperately to his portly fan, “Thank you so much, sir. But if it’s all the same to you, could you please keep your voice down?”
Why such an unusual request? Well, the author wrote a series of popular books on fitness . . . and this rotund fan was hardly a good advertisement for those volumes!
Now, imagine the scene above with Jesus as the author and the book in question as the Bible. As a “fan,” each of us approaches Jesus. What will be his reaction to us? In other words: What kind of commercial am I for the faith?
More often than not, I come up short. Take a few weeks ago, for example, when the Sunday Gospel was the story of the multiplication of the loaves and fish. I preached about trusting in the word of Jesus. If Jesus asks you to do something — like feed the crowd with just a tiny bit of food — do it! Trust him, even when your mind tells you otherwise. Jesus will provide in great abundance, if we do things in his name.
Fast forward about a half hour later that same Sunday. I’d just finished the announcements and then invited our three- to six-year-olds to come forward to get a kid’s bulletin. (This special bulletin presents the Gospel of the day on the kids’ level, with pictures and little games.)
It was the last Mass of the weekend and way more than the usual number of kids poured into the main aisle. I looked down at the paltry number of bulletins I was holding and panicked. Turning to our parish youth minister who was at that Mass, I said into the microphone, “You’re probably going to have to run more copies of this!”
The words were barely out of my mouth when those eager little hands started to grab for the bulletins, amid a jumble of comments: “Can I have an extra one for Sissy?” “Thank you, God!” “I need two more!” “I love you, Fodder!” “Where’s my seat?”
After the bedlam died down, there I was left in the main aisle: alone . . . and with three bulletins to spare.
I turned out to be a lousy commercial for the faith that day. After just preaching about trusting Jesus, I hadn’t even lasted through Mass before I doubted! I could almost see Jesus in the crowd, raising his eyes to heaven and shaking his head.
As we celebrate Labor Day weekend, take a few moments to ask the question: What kind of commercial am I for the faith? When people see me, can they tell that I’m a follower of Jesus? Can they hear encouragement and hope in my words? Can they see compassion and gentleness in my actions? Let’s not be like that fan in the opening story.
If we truly do draw inspiration from Jesus and the Scriptures, let’s make sure that we put those words into action in our lives.
Perhaps this Labor Day, after we’ve thanked the Lord for our jobs and the health to do them, we might want to ask for help in the spiritual work that we are called to do: coming to know Jesus better in our hearts and following his example of love and service in our families, our parishes and our workplaces.
Labor Day for most of us signals the official end of summer. This year the day ushers in a new month, the perfect time to renew our commitment to working diligently on our main vocation: to be more like Christ.
As people around us watch our commercial for the faith, will they be inspired to buy what we’re selling . . . or will they just change the channel?